Thursday, March 10, 2011

can we talk about teachers?

i realize i might be stirring up some big emotional debate on here.. but hey, that's what blogging is for. to get people talking. although NO ONE talks on my freaking blog anymore.. it's all comments on facebook, and emails, and texts... COMMENT HERE DAMMIT. great discussions happen in the comments section of blogs people. you can comment anonymously, with a name, or whatever.. just do what i tell you. ha :)

okay... so my friend kristina just posted on her book of faces about how disappointed she was in the education system and how "new, great, loves kids and teaching more than anything teachers got laid off while other tenured, not-so-great, couldn't care less about the kids, teachers still hold their job."

and before i knew it.. i was on kind of a rant. i started thinking about how flawed that system is. which quickly led to more thinking (never a good thing) about how the hell tenure started in the first place? how did we, as a society, get to a point where people were GUARANTEED they could not be fired from their jobs (without something major happening), regardless of how shitty they are at them? i mean, what other jobs do this? i'm honestly asking, cause i don't know. is it a union thing?

so then i commented on her post with the following:
"i feel like it's a super flawed system.. i mean, who else gets to keep their jobs no matter how much they suck at them, how much they hate them, how passed the times they are, how out of touch with today's youth they are, how mean, how ineffective... or simply based on seniority?"

and i mean.. this is teaching for pete's sake. a job where you should care.. i mean, really care about what it is you're doing. you should want to be there. you should love what you do (although we all hate parts of what we do, and i would assume that teaching is no different.. i'm sure i'd want to kill most parents, and all the shitty kids at some point) and i'm not saying that just because someone is older they should get the ax and be fired. god, i don't think that about any job. no one should be replaced because of their age.... but when effectiveness (and INeffectiveness) comes into play, that's when there's a problem.

so why is teaching different?

why is it that once your tenured, you're almost completely protected? until what? you die? or retire? i mean... if you're a teacher and you read my blog, tell me what you think IS affective about tenure.. what isn't? do you think it's a good thing? and not just because it protects the hell out of your job. do you think it's a flawed idea.. one that's out of date?

i guess mostly, i feel like tenure guarantees that crappy teachers can keep their jobs, while great ones can't.

but i'm not a teacher. i'm not in the educational system, so the truth is... that i don't know if that's even what tenure actually means or not?!?! so if i'm wrong, PLEASE tell me. i'm fully capable of admitting my wrongness (it is so rare- ha).

talk to me people.


Anonymous said...

OK... commenting here!! I am a teacher... friend of your FB poster. Tenure is a tricky issue. It's something we strive to achieve as teachers becuase yes, it gives us some security. At times I COMPLETELY admit that it gives too much security. At the same time... you have no idea how many parents get their panties in a bunch over the way a teacher handled a situation and head to the district to demand their job. There are so many factors that lead to the headbutting that can occur b/w teachers and parents, from cultural differences to information that wasn't made available to both parties to the way details can be left out when a child retells their version of what happened. Tenure is a way to make sure that teachers have the right to be considered professionals and be given the benefit of the doubt when a 'he said she said' situation arises. I have 33 kids in my class. That's 66 parents I interact with each year. Most years are uneventful and enjoyable. But there have been years where I have come across some parents who not only weren't on the same page as me, but we weren't even reading the same book. I am lucky and tend to be quite diplomatic (if I do say so myself) but some teachers have a harder time talking to adults... and battles can ensue. I have seen/heard some crazy things. I am not by any means saying it's always the parents fault....but I am trying to show a side of tenure that may not be thought about. There is so much more too.... don't even let me get started on the red tape and the fact that the districts are a business first and foremost. They respond to the money...which means the state and the parents. OK...I feel I am rambling. Tenure can be a problem and make it difficult to dismiss teachers.... but I have seen it done. When you think about the teachers that you want gone.... why is it you want them gone? (just curious) There are younger, more energetic teachers who seem like the better ones to keep... but give them 5 years in this job.
-not signing my real name due to publicity (and teachers who were fired) over blogging about teaching!

Anonymous said...

All great questions and I'd love to hear the answers because I echo your thoughts!!

ster said...

anon #1 (ha).. all GREAT points that i of course, didn't even think about.. because i'm not a teacher and i don't have to deal with any of that. BUT all of that makes total sense. i would definitely want to be protected from uptight, psycho, coddle my kid, my kid is perfect, never does shit wrong, parents (lord knows there are enough of them).. so i definitely feel you on that front and would want to feel protected if i was in that position.

AND you also make a good point about the "new" teachers being fresh, excited, etc.. because who the hell isn't excited about starting a brand new job they've been going to school for, for the last xx number of years?

and i will admit honestly, that i have never wanted a teacher gone, or demanded they be fired. i feel like for me personally, it would really take a lot for me to expect someone to be fired from their job. but it does seem like there are plenty of teachers who "all" the kids "hate".. have possibly become ineffective at the job they do and can no longer reach or teach the kids effectively. then what? too bad for the kids? i don't know.. i mean, we shouldn't make everything great for our kids, cause life isn't always great. and you'll have people in your lives who suck (hello kids, welcome to the work force) and they do need to learn how to deal with that.. so maybe i'm just conflicted? lol

so i guess that i'm wondering though.. in your opinion, do you think that tenure protects teachers who shouldn't be teaching anymore? do you think that teachers stay far longer than they are productive, therefore not allowing other more productive teachers to get and keep jobs? i think that's kind of my whole possible misinterpretation of tenure is that it allows "bad" teachers to keep their jobs until THEY don't want them anymore... is that completely false?

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 here.... (lol)

The most interesting thing about your questions is... that it's a rarity to have to consider! The turnover rate within their first 5 years for teachers is SO high! And that's by their choice. Most young, energetic people can't or don't want a thankless job that doesn't pay enough to live comfortably. I've known one teacher who stayed long enough to be talked about in terms of "maybe it's time for her to go" and in the end she gave up her job so one of those young newbies could stay. I no longer have the sweet innocence I had ten years ago. I am not as 'roses and sunshine' as I was... but I can teach. Kids don't always like me. I can be strict in a time when most parents will side with their child over me. My kids leave my class with an eduction, but I don't require they like me. In order to run a class of 33 kids so that each one of them is given equal access to education I run a tight ship. They complain, they whine and I am probably one of those teachers they aren't sure they want...but they learn. So who determines which teachers are productive and when they should leave? There are so many layers to that. I think tenure can help some teachers stay who make be taking up space that could be put to better use. But I think it's rare and I think it does more good than harm. But that's for my district. It's a great question...I hope you get more answers!

Laura said...

Here's the wiki information about tenure: and I also found an interesting paper written about tenure here: . Higher education is where tenure originated and where is seems most appropriate. I've never thought too much about its relevence to elementary and high schools. Looking forward to more conversation.


Becca said...

Hi friend! I have missed reading your blog! I'm following you on twitter again but you're not following me back so I can't tweet you! :) ANYWAY, I understand both sides of this issue -- I work in higher education and deal with this ALL OF THE TIME. It's not fair that professors who suck get to keep their jobs while others who aren't tenured get laid off. But it's life and like anonymous #1 said, tenure is what professors strive for from the very moment they begin teaching. I mean, what teacher wouldn't want to strive for something that pretty much guarantees that they'll never lose their job? I have more to say but I think I will stop there...

JayMonster said...

I will not double up on what Anon #1, but just add to it a little.

In many areas teaching jobs have become political toys and tools. Whether it is to get somebody's friend a job, or a scapegoating of somebody for trying "shake things up" to improve test score.

If you can survive that, and be considered a good teacher long enough to earn tenure, then (in theory) you can concentrate on your teaching rather than having to worry about the politics of each and every decision you make.

I also have a tendency to believe that the thinking that tenured teachers are lazy, less caring, etc. is completely overblown.

It is true that perhaps somebody newer "attacks" there position with a bit more eagerness. However, experience DOES have its advantages, and what may look "lazy" to some (particularly if they are the one getting laid off) is actually just a case of experience and "knowing what works."

Now nothing is "absolute" and I am sure there are teachers that do take advantage of their position. But I am equally certain there are plenty of "young eager" teachers that are full of life and exuberance... and completely unable to teach, or do not care about the small details.

It has become a popular target to knock teachers, but really, when you give teachers less than ideal situations, overcrowd classrooms, outdated books, and force them to "teach to the test" because some dumb ass standardized test is more important than a well balanced education... how can you blame the teachers?

And how can you blame any person for seeking security? Tenure isn't the issue... is it just the latest issue du'jour.

Oh, and BTW... I'm not a teacher, but friends and family are.

Former Student said...

Probably not what you wanted a comment on, but it's somewhate topic related.
I was lucky. I always had good teachers. Teachers I liked, too.
Matter of fact, I kept in touch with my 1st grade teacher through high school (in another state).

Just thought I'd say.

ster said...

jay- awesome points as well, with the overcrowding issues, etc. and i'm not blaming the teachers. hell, i think i just got emotional thinking about how it's frustrating as a parent when you see people who want to be there, get let go-
i'm an emotionally based person. shocking. lol
and i was shaking my head with you as i read along to the "knowing what works"... and that's also a valid point because teachers who have years of experience will know what works and what doesn't (for the majority)...

anyway, thank you for your opinion! :)

ster said...

former student- i think that's awesome. we should all have teachers we love, who inspire us and we learn from! :)

Nyt said...

What a timely discussion! I agree with anonymous#1, tenure is a tricky issue. As a parent, tenure is something that I vehemently disagree with. Now, keep in mind, I'm from the great state of Illinois, where unions are kings and every public school teacher is holding a card. My school district is well-established and well funded. Many of our public school teachers are tenured. And my child goes to parochial school....

I have a couple of problems with tenure. First is performance. I guarantee you that if you examine the ratio of tenured teachers to failing schools in Illinois you will find that there are a higher number of tenured teachers inside those failing schools. It's not to say that aren't good teachers who are holding tenure, but I believe that tenure itself eliminates the incentive to perform well. While experience is valuable, I really believe that much of that experience would be more valuable in an administrative role, perhaps mentoring newer teachers or coordinating education as a whole.

Next up, is the money. I will only speak to my own district, but tenured teachers here (5 years to reach tenure) average 55K at the grammar school and middle school level and 70k at the high school level. They do not pay for their health insurance or their pension. Median income in Illinois is roughly 53K. So the argument that tenure guarantees a "livable" wage holds no water for me. Most of those people averaging 53K are paying their own health benefits and pension costs. They're also working 12 months a year. Yet we hear continual cries from teachers that their classrooms are overcrowded, they don't have the tools they need, yada yada yada...

When Himself and I made the decision to remove the Eggroll from the public school system, we saw one glaring difference between parochial school and public. None of the parochial school teachers hold any kind of tenure. Most have been with the school for more than 5 years, all are paid at least %50 less than their public school counterparts. Despite that? Their school and their students consistently outperform their public school peers at both the state and federal level. How is that possible? My conclusion is that tenure makes many teachers complacent.

NGS said...

Tenure from the perspective of someone who teaches in a college is pretty simple. You get paid a lot less than the private sector and the tradeoff is job security. My husband has a doctorate and gets paid $45,000 a year to teach at a college. In the private sector, he could make a lot more money with the amount of education he has, but the beauty of tenure is he won't have to worry about finding another job again.

Also, he teaches and does research in an area that can be somewhat controversial (political science/international relations). The tenure system allows him freedom to do whatever research he wants to do without being censured or constrained by the needs or wants of the administration. And, as other commenters have mentioned, it's a protection against all the students who complain if you have high standards, give difficult tests, or mention something controversial in your class that they don't like (war, abortion, and term limits are frequent causes of battles in my political science classrooms).

Sure, some people become full professors and stop working at improving and getting better. But they are surely in the minority. People who work for so long to get their degrees and get tenured (which is no easy feat in academia) usually really love what they teach and research and continue to give all out.

Anonymous said...

I dont think anybody should have tenure. What other job in the world allows you to keep your job for life? I cannot think of any.

I think teaching is a very honorable thing to do and good teachers should be paid on there merits and even make more money.

However I resent when teachers pull the victim card. I think if you want to be a teacher because that's your passion, do it. But dont piss and moan about your class sizes and parents and how difficult it is because everyones job is difficult. We all deal with asshole and whackjobs, and many of us for the same amount or even lower pay. And we dont take the summers off or get a pension.

ster said...

anon #450.. haha.. what do you mean about teachers pulling the victim card? because they complain about class sizes and parents? i understand that though- large class sizes hurt everyone, especially our kids. class sizes should be reasonable. and i don't know about you, but i wouldn't want to deal with parents. hell, most parents annoy the fuck out of me as it is, and i'm not teaching their kids. HA
and yes, they do have the summers off, but the honest to god reason i think everyone gets so pissy about that.. is because they're jealous. hell, i'm jealous. i want summers off. i mean, maybe we should all have summers off!
let's riot about that instead!

Anonymous said...

And, Anonymous above me, I'll piss and moan just like everyone else,
thank you very much. Let me assure you that on my summers OFF, I am
still busy planning lessons and writing curriculum and setting up my
classroom for another school year. Over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and
spring break, I am checking in 150+ homework assignments, grading
quizzes and tests, and planning lessons. Do not think that I walk out
of my classroom at 3:00 with nothing to take home. The time I have off
during the summer balances out the nights I'm working on schoolwork
until 8:00 and on weekends. Oh, money is taken from my paycheck for
medical and dental, and I DO pay toward my retirement.

ster said...


Nyt, there are some differences between public and private schools:

1) All teachers must hold a teaching credential to be employed in a
public school. Many private schools do not require this of their
teachers, so some of the teachers have not even been through a teaching
credential program. I'm pretty sure this is why public schools pay a
higher salary to their teachers---they are more qualified for the job.

2) In general, people who can afford private school for their children
care a lot about their children's education. They make sure their
children do their homework and go to school prepared. The parents
communicate with the school and teachers and usually volunteer to help
with fundraising or activities. In other words, they are invested in
the education of their children. In the public school system, we get
everything from the high achiever to the kid who just doesn't care, and
many times the parents don't care either. Public schools also have a
high population of students with special needs and language learners.
If you take into account all of these things, I'm not surprised that
your test scores are higher. Speaking of test scores, private schools
are not required to give state tests, but public schools have to.

Anonymous said...

Couple of things...
I have seen a teacher fired. He was an under performer, his classroom management was horrible, and he was consistantly rude and disrespectful to students and staff. For some reason, the parents loved him. The parents went to the district and DEMANDED that he be reinstated. They threatened to pull their students, which would have cost the school thousands of dollars. It took 2 days. He was reinstated and given back pay. Never lost tenure and was not on any sort of probation. The principal had to apologize to him. Parents have more pull than they know!

And, it's ALL about money! As a parent, if you don't want to lose a teacher, find out why they are losing their job...can you help with that?

Raise a stink! Get in the district's face...tell them to cut adminstration costs...they can trim there....!!!

Teachers work way to flipping hard and are treated like too much crap. Tenure is not an absolute protection, but it is one of the perks of raising society's kids.

ster said...

hey everyone.. not quite sure what is happening, but it looks like people's comments are posting adn then DISAPPEARING... i get them in my email, so i'll post them here!

ster said...

FROM ANON (via email)

Too much misinformation about public education and teachers. The term "tenure" is actually incorrect. A teacher can earn "permanent status" through successful completion of a probationary period. A permanent teacher can be fired, but has the right of due process in the event an administrator seeks to remove the teacher. This means that the teacher has a right to defend his/herself in a termination hearing. If the administrator has done his/her job documenting the teacher's shortcomings, then the teacher can easily be removed. The pubic perception that bad teachers have a lock on their jobs is incorrect. A good administrator knows how to deal with bad teachers.

I don't know where you got the salary figures, but I seriously doubt the accuracy of a starting teacher's salary in Illinois. I'm sorry if you believe that the service teachers provide is not worthy of quality compensation.

And, permanent teachers are much more likely to work in higher performing schools than newer teachers. Look that one up.

By the way, public teachers do have to spend a significant amount of their salaries on their pensions and health benefits each month.

Finally, I have no doubt your kids' school outperforms the public schools in your area. This is always predictable by socioeconomics. I'm sure parents at your kids' school are supportive on many levels, which is not the case for many public schools. And, don't forget that a private school has the luxury of picking their grapes and throwing out the bad ones.

It bothers me when teachers are thrown under the bus for
political reasons. Why don't we value their services more? They are constantly under attack, and for what? Do the bad teachers represent the majority? Is their compensation package really that far out of out of touch with the service they provide? Is it really in the best interest of the middle class to constantly chip away at and bash on the teaching profession? Is it in the best interest of our kids?

Please consider learning more about the teaching profession before you make such harsh judgements.

ster said...

FROM NYT- (also not posting)
Dear Anonymous Oft-Deleted Friend,
First off, I hear you but I will tell you that I only spoke to my
district. You're suggestion that parochial school teachers are somehow
less qualified is patently false, at least in my area. At least in the
schools that I have investigated and the one I deal with, parochial
school teachers are as credentialed as their public school
counterparts. I have spoken to some who have left the public school
system precisely because of the tenure/quality teaching system.

While parochial schools are not "required" to give state tests, there
are still minimum standards that all children must meet before
progressing. Parochial school students consistently meet or exceed
these minimum standards.

As a parent, I'm not going to debate the public v. private school
thing. This discussion was about teachers and tenure. I understand that
public schools have many more "irons" in the fire as it were. I also
understand the view that parochial school parents are more "invested"
in their child's education. I get that, but even if you took the
highest performing class from a public school and matched it with the
same class in a parochial school, the parochial school would still
outperform. With the same number of students in the class, and with
teachers who make less money, and with limited financial resources...
It's really hard to look at that and then say that tenure doesn't allow
bad teachers to stay on the job. Or that tenure doesn't make teachers
complacent. It's almost impossible to discount.

ster said...

i meant, not posting, as in... it got deleted. lol

i love y'all. play nice. be nice. i think this is a great discussion and there's room to learn from everyone...

ster said...

AGAIN FROM NYT (what the hell blogger, why aren't things posting?!?!)

Dear Anonymous #?,

Let's start off by saying that I have the utmost respect for teachers, it's certainly a job that I couldn't do and I job that I wouldn't delude myself into believing that I could do.

Now then, the discussion at hand is about teachers and tenure. My posts examine the reasons WHY I believe tenure for teachers is not the greatest thing ever. These are my experiences and my observations.

With the exception of the "median income in the state of Illinois" all of the numbers pertain to MY district. None of the quoted figures pertained to "starting teacher" salaries, they only pertained to salaries in MY district. Clearly, internet security prevents me from revealing the district number in the same way it prevents you from revealing your name. Sorry.

Pensions and healthcare? The statements pertain to MY district only. Certainly the argument could be made using CPS as an example, but I have no first hand knowledge of that. What I do have, however, is the school board president at my dinner table from time to time, a husband who teaches at both the graduate and undergrad level and an inquisitive nature.

As to "harsh judgement"? Not so much. I prefer to call it informed opinion...

Thanks Jen for the forum.

Anonymous said...


Since the term "tenure" applies more appropriately to teachers/professors at the college level, does your husband have tenure? What do you think of tenure as it applies to your husband's career? Are there bad college instructors with tenure?